Middlesex Corporation recently completed civil and site work for 26 miles of railroad track, allowing the opening of Connecticut’s first new passenger service since 1990.
Under contract with Amtrak, the Littleton, Massachusetts-based contractor performed $107 million in civil, site, and structural improvement work for the installation of a second track between Hamden and Windsor, Connecticut.
As designed by consultants HNTB, the project adds a second track at existing single-track sections on the Hartford line of the state’s new CTrail commuting service, which shares the track with Amtrak passenger and freight service. The track is owned by Amtrak and is part of its 62-mile New Haven-Hartford-Springfield (NHHS) line. CTrail runs roughly parallel to the Interstate 91 corridor connecting New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield, Massachusetts. The CTrail Hartford line track work is a component of Amtrak’s overall $750 million NHHS Railway improvement program.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT), which is responsible for the new commuting line under the supervision of Commissioner James P. Redeker, pointed out that adding a second track to the line improves safety by enabling trains to pass each other quickly and efficiently, and boosts rail capacity for both passenger and freight service. This enhanced passenger rail service operates at speeds up to 110 mph, reducing the time that it takes to travel between Springfield and New Haven to about one hour 20 minutes on average.
Key project personnel for Middlesex Corporation include: Project Executive Peter Spath, Project Superintendent Noel Kelly, and Project Engineer Carolina Squella. Middlesex crews constructed beds for the second track, excavating soil and installing crushed rock sub-ballast and ballast for the new rails. Ballast forms the track bed on which railroad tiesare laid and is packed between, below, and around the ties. It is used to bear the load from the railroad ties, to facilitate drainageof water, and also to keep down vegetationthat might interfere with the track structure. Ballast also holds track in place as the trains pass by. Its name comes from the nautical term for stones that were once used to stabilize a ship.
Rail and Ties in One Operation
Amtrak installed the 136 RE (136 pounds per yard) steel rails on 800-pound precast concrete ties, using a 250-ton Harsco Track Technologies (Harsco Rail) track construction machine (TCM). The TCM, one of just a few currently operating in the U.S., installs rail and concrete ties simultaneously.
In a typical TCM operation, lengths of steel rail on flatbed train cars are off-loaded near the side of the machine. Flatbed train cars carrying precast ties are towed behind the TCM and feed ties via conveyor to the TCM. A large bulldozer pulls the TCM as the 150-foot-long machine lays ties on the ballast at specified spacing and simultaneously places the rail string onto the ties. A “clipping” machine continuously attaches the rail string to the ties, producing a completed track assembly. The TCM can assemble up to 1,000 feet of track per hour.
Bridges, Culverts, and More
Middlesex Corporation’s contract with Amtrak also called for rehabilitation or replacement of 20 bridges and culverts. A major part of this construction was the removal and installation of new headwalls, parapets, mortar and concrete repairs and deck improvements. The contractor also replaced two bridge superstructures, drilled shafts for soldier pile/precast lagging walls, installed micropiles and laid drainage pipe.
In addition, Middlesex crews made improvements at seven grade crossings, and they set up and maintained a number of stockpile areas for materials excavated during construction. The NHHS Rail project included excavating, transporting and screening existing rail bed ballast and granular material for the purpose of reuse.
Middlesex and its subcontractors accomplished their tasks despite being limited by challenging physical and operating constraints as well as very few access points along a narrow right-of-way, according to Project Executive Spath. In line with this, the contractor was required to maintain and protect previously installed Amtrak and Level 3 utilities and others during construction.
Furthermore, there were approximately 30 weekend outages, each over a 32-hour period. During these outages, Amtrak removed track to allow Middlesex to complete drainage pipe and culvert construction, and then Amtrak reinstalled the track structure. And while Middlesex crews performed their work, they were required to establish and maintain close coordination with adjacent ongoing projects of Amtrak force-account crews and CTDOT contractors working on NHHS passenger stations, as well as personnel on other projects, including CTfastrak – Connecticut’s first rapid transit bus system that employs a dedicated busway on a former railroad right-of-way.
On June 15, 2018, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy joined dozens of federal, state, and local officials, and Connecticut commuters to officially launch the CTrail Hartford Line for service. The new double-track along existing single-track sections of the Hartford Line allows more frequent trains to travel through the corridor. Future phases of construction include installation of a second track between Windsor and Enfield, which is currently in design. This would connect with existing double track between Enfield and Springfield.
More recently, CTDOT announced on September 25, 2018, that the latest 4 miles of track on the CTrailHartford Line had just been opened between Hartford and Windsor, with some follow-up construction activity to take place through mid-November.
New Stations, High Platforms
As part of the overall $750 million NHHS rail program, new train stations have been built in Wallingford, Meriden, and Berlin, while high-level platforms and other upgrades have been made at Hartford and New Haven State Street stations. Judlau Contracting Inc. has built the modern stations, which were designed by Michael Baker Engineering. The program manager is WSP USA.
Construction at stations generally includes the installation of 500-foot high-level platforms. These are built to approximately the same height as a typical passenger train car door – about 4 feet above the track elevation. Other amenities include overhead pedestrian bridges, passenger information display systems, ticket vending machines, automatic snowmelt systems, electronic vehicle charging stations and loop bicycle racks.
High-level platforms at Hartford Union Station were opened in summer 2016. Wallingford Station and Meriden Station opened in November 2017, and New Haven State Street Station opened in June 2018. Berlin Station partially opened in June 2018 and will open fully once construction is complete in the fall.
CTDOT notes that it is in design for new stations in North Haven, Newington, West Hartford, Windsor, Windsor Locks and Enfield.
Links with Northeast Corridor
The CTrail Hartford Line connects commuters to existing rail services in New Haven and Springfield, providing links with Boston and New York City, among other metropolitan areas, that connect with Amtrak’s high-speed Northeast Corridor (NEC).
More than 50 million people live in the Northeast and many of them are served by the Northeast Corridor (NEC) rail line. Amtrak is the majority owner of the 457-mile NEC mainline from Boston to Washington, D.C. The NEC carries more than 750,000 passengers on 2,200 daily commuter and intercity trains, with additional freight use as well.
Major Subcontractors for CTrail Project
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